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What’s the best way to insure your belongings if you live in an assisted living facility?

June 28, 2022
4 mins
A senior couple walk through a gorgeous green field with blooming trees

Many seniors move to an assisted living or long-term care facility when independent living becomes too difficult or unsafe. An assisted living facility or retirement residence often provides some support with meals or housekeeping. Whereas a long-term care facility generally provides around-the-clock medical care and nursing support. That move can be a significant adjustment, especially on the insurance front.

Often, seniors in these facilities end up selling their houses or condos and go from homeowners to tenants. As a result, they won’t need a traditional home insurance policy.

What type of insurance coverage is best for a senior in this situation? By and large, tenants insurance will do just fine, but there are a few cases where it won’t be adequate.

How contents insurance works in long-term care and assisted living in Canada

At a long-term care or assisted living facility, a standard tenants insurance policy should cover all of a senior’s possessions. After all, many residents arrive at these facilities without all the furnishings they had in their homes.

“You might be talking about, depending on the facility, your clothes, maybe some limited furniture, pots, pans, glasses, or kitchenware,” says Rob de Pruis, national director of consumer and industry relations at the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

Anything left in a storage facility is protected through standard personal property coverage (home insurance, condo, or tenant insurance) for about 90 days or the length of the policy, whichever is shorter. Anyone leaving items in a storage facility for longer should consider a self-storage policy.

The good news is tenant insurance coverage is affordable. Derek Faulconer, regional manager at Westland Insurance, said these tenant insurance policies could cost as little as $300 to $400 a year. In some cases, tenant insurance could cost as little as $15 a month, depending on your coverage needs.

And de Pruis says some tenants insurance policies have a $10,000 content limit, which may be more than enough for a senior moving into a facility. More expensive belongings, like jewelry, may require endorsements to cover them.

Some facilities will even provide their own overarching policy for all tenants, called a master policy. But de Pruis says this isn’t universal. Nor is the requirement for residents to even have insurance when moving into a long-term care or assisted living facility. Still, an insurance policy can bring tenants peace of mind and protect their things should the worst-case scenario happen.

How seniors can obtain contents coverage through their adult children

Seniors might be able to obtain personal property coverage for their belongings if their adult children hold homeowner’s policies of their own. Stefan Tirschler, product and underwriting manager at Square One Insurance Services, says this is the case for Square One clients with a home insurance policy.

“That extension does exist under most homeowner’s policies,” Tirschler says. “Even if you’re a condo owner, you’ll probably see a similar extension in there for the benefit of your parents.”

However, Tirschler says such an extension might not cover all the expenses a senior could incur should a fire or flood destroy their home. For example, personal property coverage wouldn’t compensate for the cost of living in a hotel while waiting for repairs. Seniors who own a property in a retirement community would need to keep paying their mortgage, property taxes, and utility bills.

“In that case, you would want to ensure that you arrange dedicated insurance with additional living expense coverage at that location,” Tirschler says.

Insurance in senior living communities

Insurance in a senior living community differs somewhat from long-term care or assisted living facilities. Sometimes called retirement villages, retirement condominium communities, or adult lifestyle communities, the residents of these facilities own their properties. Contents property coverage alone won’t be sufficient — they need a proper homeowner’s policy to cover any potential damage to their home.

“If they own their unit,” Tirschler says, “then they’re exposed to the same things a condo owner may be, like assessments for water damage and all that fun stuff.”

Unfortunately, senior living community residents can’t piggyback on the home insurance policy of their adult children, as explained above. “They would need their own separate policy,” de Pruis says.

The right insurance policy can fill any gaps in coverage

Reading the fine print on any contracts for a retirement home, long-term care facility, or assisted living facility is critical. Another consideration is whether residents share accommodation in a facility — meaning their belongings may be less secure than in a traditional apartment.

de Pruis also recommends regularly reaching out to an insurance representative, so seniors or their caregivers aren’t surprised by any of life’s circumstances. “There’s coverage for every stage of life that’s readily available throughout the country.”

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Brennan Doherty

Brennan Doherty is a Toronto-based writer. His work has appeared in Toronto Star, VICE, the National Post, and elsewhere. Once upon a time, he called Calgary home.

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